Synopses & Reviews
An electric portrait of the artist as a young woman that asks how a writer finds her voice in a society that prefers women to be silent
In Recollections of My Nonexistence, Rebecca Solnit describes her formation as a writer and as a feminist in 1980s San Francisco, in an atmosphere of gender violence on the street and throughout society and the exclusion of women from cultural arenas. She tells of being poor, hopeful, and adrift in the city that became her great teacher, and of the small apartment that, when she was nineteen, became the home in which she transformed herself. She explores the forces that liberated her as a person and as a writer — books themselves; the gay community that presented a new model of what else gender, family, and joy could mean; and her eventual arrival in the spacious landscapes and overlooked conflicts of the American West.
Beyond being a memoir, Solnit’s book is also a passionate argument: that women are not just impacted by personal experience, but by membership in a society where violence against women pervades. Looking back, she describes how she came to recognize that her own experiences of harassment and menace were inseparable from the systemic problem of who has a voice, or rather who is heard and respected and who is silenced — and how she was galvanized to use her own voice for change.
“Rebecca Solnit’s opposition to injustice in its many forms, and her relentless inquiry as a writer and reporter into a great range of issues — racial injustice, nuclear weapons, indigenous rights, male hegemony — have defined the outrage and politics of much of her generation. In Recollections of My Nonexistence she draws all these potent metaphors for inequity together into a moral stance that transcends the particulars of all her topics. This is a remarkable book—smart, brave, edgy, insightful, and authentic.” Barry Lopez
“[A] splendid memoir of longings and determinations, of resistances and revolutions, personal and political, illuminating the kiln in which one of the boldest, most original minds of our time was annealed.” Maria Popova, BrainPickings
“Solnit begins this book of personal and cultural explorations with the memory of looking in a mirror and seeing herself disappear. It’s a fitting metaphor for a narrative that is as much a social history as it is a memoir, engaging questions of invisibility and silence and the way patriarchal forces seek to render women small.” Los Angeles Times
About the Author
Rebecca Solnit is the author of more than twenty books, including A Field Guide to Getting Lost, The Faraway Nearby, A Paradise Built in Hell, River of Shadows, and Wanderlust. She is also the author of Men Explain Things to Me and many essays on feminism, activism and social change, hope, and the climate crisis. A product of the California public education system from kindergarten to graduate school, she is a regular contributor to The Guardian and other publications.